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It’s Time To Rethink Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

B2B commerce is evolving, with heightened customer expectations and technology driving a generational change. Updating existing strategies to focus on eCommerce platforms is the key to ensuring success.

The state of B2B commerce has undergone a radical transformation over the last several years. Faced with significant pressure from external factors, businesses have found themselves shifting to digital commerce faster than they anticipated. The result? Commerce has become digital-first. 

This was one of the primary findings from the second edition of the State of Commerce report, which spoke to more than 4,000 commerce leaders and looked at the behaviour of over 1 billion customers from around the world. 

With digital commerce now rivalling physical commerce, finding and connecting with customers remains key — but what happens after that is even more important.

State of Commerce

Hear from 1 billion consumers and buyers about the latest commerce trends.

The state of B2B commerce

What does B2B commerce look like today?

According to the State of Commerce report, business buyers are already placing larger and more complex orders online. And the numbers are set to rise, with 97% of digital leaders stating that they think buyers will be placing bigger and more expensive orders in the next two years. 

This is leading to many business sellers looking at a future that concentrates on eCommerce platforms as a central ingredient of success. Industries like consumer packaged goods, retail, telecommunications and manufacturing all project increased sales numbers through digital commerce channels in the next two years with new channels uptake. Other channels already in use include social media (55%), company websites (54%) and third-party marketplaces (49%).

B2B sellers are already making the most of digital channels. An impressive 46% of digital leaders report positive customer service benefits to digital commerce compared to digital laggards, along with expansion into new regions, customer base growth and revenue growth.

A strategic realignment

Even as buyers and sellers have shifted to a model of commerce that’s split more equally between physical and digital, in-person experiences are still popular, requiring a balanced approach that ensures seamless, cohesive experiences for customers across all channels, whether digital or physical.  

This isn’t just a consideration for retailers or B2C organisations, it’s increasingly relevant to B2B organisations who want to provide great customer experiences and build deeper visibility into the selling process. 

Finally, a cookie-less future means that organisations will need to think carefully about how they collect their first-party data, and how best to use it.

A growing B2B demand for digital channels

The State of Commerce research shows that demand for complex B2B online sales is growing — 31% of business sellers say online channels provide more than half of all revenue today. And that’s just the beginning, with 57% of digital leaders stating that digital channels will provide more than half of their revenue within the next two years. 

This presents a variety of challenges, not least of which is ensuring that you have the right digital channels and that experiences are consistent across all of them. However, respondents indicate there are some serious benefits for those who overcome these challenges. They include improved customer satisfaction and relationships, access to new regional markets and growing customer bases. 

Channel friction is another issue B2B sellers will need to consider. A greater number of channels means greater risk that customers won’t get the experiences they expect — which is crucial, since 87% of business buyers expect sales reps to know their business and act as trusted advisors. Meeting these expectations requires a single, centralised view of each customer across their entire journey. 

However, it’s not just about customer experience, it’s also about business efficiency. Organisations risk time-consuming errors, inefficient double-ups between functions, unnecessarily manual tasks, and potential damage to their relationships with customers. A single ‘digital backbone’ that runs across all functions and departments can provide deeper visibility and streamline processes, especially as online sales and buying journeys become more complex.

An impressive 46% of digital leaders report positive customer service benefits to digital eCommerce compared to digital laggards, along with expansion into new regions, customer base growth and revenue growth.

State of Commerce, 2nd ed.

Updating back-end technology

Making the decision to undertake new digital initiatives is one thing, having the technology to do the hard work is another. 

The State of Commerce report found that one of the defining problems for organisations was a slow back-end that causes significant time delays on making changes to digital storefronts — 34% of respondents reported that it took weeks or months to update. To speed up the time it takes to get into new channels, organisations need to turn to headless commerce platforms

By separating the front end and the back end, headless commerce platforms allows changes to be made to the delivery layer quickly, while changes to the back end can be actioned without affecting user experience. 

The benefits are significant. From being able to customise the digital experience, to adding new channels faster and improved integration, headless architecture is growing in popularity — 80% of businesses that don’t have headless architecture are planning on implementing it within the next two years.

State of Commerce

Hear from 1 billion consumers and buyers about the latest commerce trends.

Investing in success

Investment in digital commerce and ecommerce platforms is delivering significant productivity benefits to B2B sales teams, with 64% of all B2B sellers reporting that digital commerce increases their sales team productivity. There’s also findings of increased job satisfaction (63%), improved productivity (57%), more personal development opportunities (43%), and more time to spend as strategic advisers to customers (47%). On top of this, 75% of digital leaders reported that digital commerce had a positive impact on customer satisfaction. 

Flexible payment methods are no longer optional, with 61% of digital leaders offering Buy Now, Pay Later style instalment payments, while 64% of companies are offering at least one mobile wallet option. Cryptocurrency is also on the rise. While only 30 % of organisations offer it as a payment option at the moment, it’s the number one reported payment method that organisations are investing in over the next two years.

From being able to customise the digital experience, to adding new channels faster and improved integration, headless architecture is growing in popularity — 80% of businesses that don’t have headless are planning on implementing it within the next two years.

State of Commerce, 2nd ed.

Towards a positive future

Sky-high expectations, access to new sales channels and a range of data challenges highlight why commerce organisations need to be reconsidering their approach and strategy. 

To succeed, B2B organisations need to re-evaluate their technology, data practices and channel investments, putting themselves in prime position to triumph.

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Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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